I can admit it, after getting married but prior to having children, I often judged parents for their parenting choices. I said things like, “I won’t be one of those mom’s that allows work to distract me from play time at home nor will I over use screen time to entertain!” I said similar things about my marriage like, “We will never go to bed angry!” The reality all parents know is that once the lack of sleep, rushing to get to school on time, constant runny noses, needing to be in two places at once so we don’t miss soccer practice and swim team sets in, it’s often difficult to always make the best choices. A reset is needed from time to time to help us keep on track. Two forces that help me reset are forgiveness and leadership.
Forgiveness is a powerful force. At times you need to be the one to forgive as well as the one receiving the forgiveness. Forgiving my husband for forgetting to tell me about the birthday party happening tomorrow that he verbally RSVP’d to last month can be difficult. Ok, it can be nearly impossible! It forced me to scramble to purchase a last-minute birthday gift and had to rearrange a meeting a work. The key for me is putting myself in his shoes. You see, my husband is a firefighter. That comes with long sleepless nights and heartbreaking medical calls. From time to time his inability to focus on communicating some details is understandable, right? I have to do the same thing with the children. When my son is having a meltdown because he can’t find that one tiny lego piece he needs to complete a creation he’s been diligently working on is another test of my ability to forgive. I was in the middle of making dinner and had a long day at work. I try to think of the most generous reason for this meltdown such as maybe he is hungry, after all, it was me that was late getting dinner on the table. Maybe he is tired since we did get to bed about 15 minutes past bedtime last night. By bestowing forgiveness on them I hope to breed an environment where they can find a way to do the same for me when I need it.
That brings us to leadership. The key here is remembering that the children are little sponges watching and listening to everything we are doing and saying. Was I being patient with and polite to the waiter at dinner? Did I say please or thank you to the kids when I asked them to do something? Leading by example can be all-consuming but well worth the effort particularly when it comes to healthy habits and character building. If we are not exercising, eating healthy foods or being patient how do we expect the children to do the same? This rule is in full effect at our dinner table. We all eat the same meal and that sometimes means it’s not my favorite entrée or my husband’s favorite side item but if we expect our children to eat it than we need to as well. Same goes for exercise! We make a point to head to the gym together and occasionally play a bit of basketball in the front yard or soccer in the back. The children see us drink lots of water and choose a healthy snack when we are hungry. We expect them to do the same.
To the parents I judged prior to knowing how challenging it can be, I apologize! We are in this together my fellow parents and lots of reminders for each other on how we can dig a bit deeper to make the best choices we can under the circumstances will only make our little humans that much more capable to handle their own challenges when they become adults.
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